Let’s Talk About Burnout

Everyone can agree that the past 12 months have been challenging to say the least. Regardless of how you’ve been affected personally, chances are that the amount of stress in your life increased. 

The heightened stress is even more common in the workplace. Millions of people faced job loss, business closings, and had their hours cut. Millions of others- mainly in the healthcare space- have been overwhelmed with being overworked. And then others had to quickly transition to working from home and, in some cases, homeschooling all of their children.

Needless to say, people are more likely to be stressed at work. And, while heightened stress doesn’t always lead to burnout, it is a primary factor. A few of our goals at Resource Wranglers is to be real, and help awesome companies connect with awesome employees. In this article, we’ll explain what burnout is, how it impacts employees and employers, and some ways you can deal with it.

What is burnout?

Merriam-Webster defines burnout as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.”

The term “burnout” was initially coined in the 1970s by an American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used burnout to describe the consequences of severe stress and the need to do good in “helping” professions. For example, doctors and nurses who work tirelessly to help others often end up burning out.

Burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Today, the World Health Organization describes burnout as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

Burnout costs $120-190 billion dollars a year in healthcare costs. And individuals who are burnt out can take fourteen months to two years to recover. Burnout is costing employees in medical expenses, lost time at work, and the cause of significant employee turnover. Employers that help their teams avoid and overcome burnout will have a considerable advantage. And employees who properly deal with burnout will be happier and healthier.

Who does burnout affect?

This year, the simple answer is everyone. As we’ve mentioned, no one has been able to avoid the stresses in the workplace altogether.

A study from the business software giant Oracle revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic has created the most stressful work year in people’s lives, negatively affecting the mental health of 78% of the global workforce.

If you’re feeling like you might be facing burnout, it’s best to address it quickly. The longer you let it go unchecked, the longer it will take to overcome, and the bigger the consequences will be.

What can you do to avoid burnout?

If possible, you should do your best to avoid burnout before it becomes a significant issue in your life. 

Google recognized that their employees were struggling in the transition to remote work. In a memo to employees, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai acknowledged that it isn’t easy and encouraged them to take time for themselves to avoid burnout. Mr. Pichai told his employees to enjoy a meeting-less week. That gave employees time to work without being interrupted.

It’s valuable for employers and leaders to recognize that employees have been walking in unknown territory. Sometimes avoiding overcommunication and interruptions can help people stay productive. There are advantages to working from home, but one of the challenges is that managers tend to think they need to replace physically working together in an office with a lot of face-to-face time on screen.

Dr. Leah Weiss, who teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and works with leaders suffering from burnout, says that burnout is “impossible for an individual to fix without a systems perspective.” While overwork and insufficient resources certainly play a role, she argues that to “create a burnout shield” there needs to be organizational-level strategies for helping individuals.

One of those strategies is upholding fairness and transparency. “People need coherence, purpose, and fairness to be healthy,” Dr. Weiss writes, pointing to findings that even monkeys value fairness. She gives the example of unfairly distributed promotions, a common cause of burnout for people who are continually held back from advancement within their company.

Dr. Weiss also tells of the importance of resilience and self-awareness. She says that helping people avoid burnout means helping them “know their triggers, needs, and their sense of purpose.” She believes that organizations must ensure that “within teams, there is enough vulnerability for people to share what they see as their purpose, strengths, and values.”

How can you escape from burnout?

If you’re currently dealing with burnout, it can feel impossible to escape. Burnout mainly impacts your productivity at work, which then spills over into other areas of your life. It can leave you feeling discouraged, disappointed, and exhausted.

Is there a way to escape from it?

As mentioned earlier, it can take over a year to heal from severe burnout. One of the first steps is recognizing that you are burned out. Continuing to ignore burnout and the symptoms of it will only prolong the process. 

Here are four quick steps you can take to escape burnout. Remember, it’s unlikely that things will change overnight, but there are things you can do to work towards improvement.

  1. Disconnect

Disconnecting from your work in 2021 is no easy task. Most people have work-related apps and notifications on their phone, which rarely leaves our side. Whether it’s your email, group chats, or text messages, it feels impossible to disconnect ourselves from work fully.

If you’re facing burnout, it helps to set boundaries and disconnect from your work life. Your emails will still be there on Monday morning. Disconnecting can be as simple as taking a walk outside without your phone or smartwatch. Do whatever you can to silence notifications, buzzes, and dings that prevent you from taking a daily break. 

  1. Get organized

Burnout can come from feeling overwhelmed and thinking that you’re never making positive progress. You might actually be getting stuff done, but disorganization can leave you feeling unaccomplished. 

Organizing and reprioritizing your life is an investment you make. You may need to take a break from your daily tasks to organize your workspace and living space. Starting from an organized space can help you focus on the tasks at hand and make them more enjoyable because there are fewer things competing for your attention.

  1. Improve your schedule

Working from home has fully dissolved the lines between work and home. Many people who previously went to an office are working at their kitchen table. That makes it extremely difficult to switch from work mode to home mode. And when you can’t switch work mode off, you will likely start to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and cynical towards your job.

There are many different techniques to creating a healthy work schedule. The important thing is to decide which hours you’re working, and which hours you’re not. You need to “leave the office” mentally, especially when you’re working from home.

  1. Don’t do it alone

It’s unlikely that you can overcome burnout on your own. Sharing that you’re burned out won’t be an easy or comfortable conversation. But once you have it, there will be a tremendous sense of relief. 

Because burnout is centered on your employment, we recommend that you bring it up to a trusted co-worker, supervisor, or leader at your workplace. They’re likely unaware of what you’re dealing with. Most companies will have additional resources or at least point you in the right direction, but the most important thing is that they’re aware of what you’re dealing with, even if they don’t have all the answers.